Fitness Articles

9 Cross-Training Activities for Runners

Boost Performance, Reduce Injury Risk and Beat Boredom

4.6KSHARES

Indoor Rowing
The indoor rowing machine is not the most popular item in the gym, but it provides an amazing workout. Rowing is great for runners who want to develop strength in their quadriceps and hips while also improving upper body strength. Good form is necessary when using the rower, so read this article about proper rowing mechanics or ask a certified trainer for some pointers.

Stair Climbing
Whether you elect to climb stairs in your office building or at the gym on the stair stepping machine, heading up stairs provides an excellent workout for the quads and hip flexors. Because runners tend to have stronger hamstrings, cross-training activities that target the quadriceps can help you achieve better muscle balance, therefore reducing the injury risk.

Plyometrics
Plyometrics are high intensity, explosive exercises such as jumping, bounding and hopping drills. Jumping onto a box or step is one of the most popular. These activities can help improve a runner's overall strength, speed, range of motion, push-offs and stride length, but they are best suited for highly conditioned athletes—not beginners. Using proper form is essential when performing explosive drills. Because of their high impact, landing improperly can lead to a greater incidence of injury. If you are not familiar with plyometrics, you may want to work with a certified personal trainer for a few sessions until you have mastered the techniques.

Walking
Many runners are surprised to hear that walking is actually a great cross-training activity. Unlike running, it's low-impact, but it targets many of the same muscles and connective tissues. And because walking can be done almost anywhere at any time, doing a vigorous walk the day after an intense run is a great way to recover. If you choose to use walking as a cross-training activity on your non-running days, walk at a brisk enough pace to get the cardio-respiratory benefits. Remember to use good form and pump your arms to burn more calories and pick up the pace.

Cross-training Activities that Enhance Running
These activities are those that utilize the muscles, connective tissues and joints in a similar manner used in running but with lower impact on the joints. Many runners will use these workouts when recovering from an injury or when going through rehab, but you can try these workout ideas as preventive measures even when you're not suffering from an injury.

Deep Water Running
Deep water running, also known as pool running, is exactly as the name implies: running in deep water. This is achieved by slipping on a flotation device, such as an AquaJogger, so that your legs are suspended off the bottom of the pool. This activity most mimics running on land without the impact on the joints. It makes a great cross-training activity for injured runners, but many healthy runners may find it quite boring. One of the disadvantages to pool running is the need to have access to an indoor pool during the colder months and/or a pool deep enough to perform this workout.
Continued ›
‹ Previous Page   Page 2 of 3   Next Page ›
4.6KSHARES

Advertisement -- Learn more about ads on this site.

More Great Features

Connect With SparkPeople

Subscribe to our Newsletters

About The Author

Nancy Howard Nancy Howard
Nancy is an avid runner and health enthusiast. A retired pediatric nurse, she received her bachelor's degree in nursing from Texas Woman's University and is also a certified running coach and ACE-certified personal trainer.

Member Comments

  • Good suggestions. The water walking sounds like a lot of fun too! - 8/9/2014 11:19:25 AM
  • CHANGELIFE2016
    rollerblading is good too! - 6/25/2014 11:28:02 AM
  • Great article. - 11/17/2013 3:27:15 PM
  • Very good suggestions. - 7/15/2013 5:47:22 PM
  • There are so many options provided here that I can easily do. This is great. Thank you! - 7/15/2013 10:52:10 AM
  • Much good info here. I cannot walk or run for exercise because of back problems but I can do a mixture of Pilates and yoga. - 7/6/2013 7:07:03 AM
  • While this is a good article, I agree with all of your comments especially about strength training and stretching needing to be added to the list! I've worked out with several trainers over the last year and a half and they've all stressed the need for working strength training and stretching into my running in order to improve it! - 2/7/2013 9:00:16 AM
  • It's nice to see bike riding among the cross training list. For what ever reasons some people down play the importance and benefits of bike riding.
    Swimming is also a great cross training exercise especialy the wave pools - 11/15/2012 9:24:40 AM
  • Very surprised yoga is not on this list. That is my main cross training when training for a race. And upper body weight lifting. - 10/29/2012 2:42:07 PM
  • What a great article I do all these except cross country ski and water jog .....glad to know doing the right things - 9/16/2012 2:23:11 PM
  • Wow! This is great information! Just what I've been looking for and more.
    Thanks so much for putting your time into something that will be helping many I'm sure.
    Have a great day!
    G Sparker - 9/16/2012 9:26:56 AM
  • I love running (which is quite surprising - 7 months ago I would have laughed hysterically if you told me I would be up to 9+ miles while still weighing more than 200 pounds)!

    I've tried riding my bike for cross training... Unfortunately, however, I overdid it (6 mile ride on lots of steep hills my second week out) and really messed up my knees. Thankfully I could still run without any pain in my knees but bending and squatting were quite painful for a month. So if you go the route of cycling - make sure you have proper form on the bike and take it easy - building up your time and distance on the bike.

    I've also tried pool running when I'm at my parents house- it is truly very boring - but the hand floats you use help add a welcome arm workout while pool running.

    My go to activity between my running days is ZUMBA! I know it's not traditional at all - but it is TONS of fun! :) - 9/16/2012 8:41:35 AM
  • I agree with WAMCVEY ~ Yoga and Pilates are definitely missing from this list - 5/19/2012 9:12:47 AM
  • Walking is #1 for me,
    it does the best to my legs, better than cycling or swimming,
    and it doesn't require any equipment or preparation.
    At first I felt walking was a waste of time as it burns relatively fewer calories,
    but now I love walking on my cross training days. I burn the calories during running, no need to worry about them on rest days. - 5/19/2012 8:14:07 AM
  • I agree that some forms of strength training should be included in this list, although I noticed that it really focuses on other forms of cardio that can help running.

    Actually, the only thing I disagree with in this article is the first sentence: the only way to get better at running is to run. In my personal experience, the only way to get an injury is to run, and then run some more. I got better at running by running less; in effect, I got better at running by doing this list!

    I was trying to get my run times down, and I overtrained. I ended up with a stress fracture, which meant I couldn't run at all. For two full months I did the stationary bike and the rowing machine, the only two pieces of cardio equipment I was authorized to use (I'm in the Navy). I kept up strength training. When I DID start running again in March, I did a walk-to-run program. I started doing plyometrics for my legs instead of weights.

    I had a physical assessment at the beginning of May. I only needed to run 1.5 miles, but three weeks before the test, I was still only running for 5-8 minutes. I only got one trial run before my test.

    On the day of the test, I ran 1.5 miles in 10:19, my fastest time to date. I shaved 21 seconds off my last test time, which was in October. So yeah, I can't stress how important this article's points are, for preventing boredom AND injury, and the only thing I don't agree with is that first sentence! - 5/19/2012 8:01:53 AM
Popular Calories Burned Searches: Gymnastics  |  Hacky Sack  |  Riding Jet Ski

x Lose 10 Pounds by November 1! Get a FREE Personalized Plan